If you're a fan of Bruce Springsteen, you may have heard the story about how Clarence Clemons was playing in a bar one night when Bruce walked in and was blown away by the music. The band Clarence was playing in was led by Norman Seldin, and while that moment may be part of rock and roll history, it's just one part of the Stormin' Norman legend.
Seldin was something of a child prodigy, playing shows in the sixties as a teenager and even booking national acts. What made him stand out from other promoters (other than being a teenager) was how he was one of the only people booking black artists at the time. "I suffered for it," admitted Seldin. "I can't tell you how many nights I came out with N.I.G.G.E.R. carved into my car. And I was Jewish, which made it even worse.
"It didn't register with me because at a young age, I realized that if you were Jewish or Greek or something like that you were kind of an odd ball in this area. Being different didn't mean anything to me. All I knew was if you bled to death or had a heart attack you would still die and I would die the same as they would."
Years later when Clemons would join Seldin's band, The Joyful Noyze, the situation still hadn't improved much. Asbury Park was the site of one of the nation's most visible riots on July 4, 1970. When Norman asked Clarence to join his band, he was breaking the racial barrier yet again. Bands simply weren't integrated yet.
"It led to having 8 months of work cancelled," recalled Seldin. "Owners would say ‘we want to have your band, but you can't bring that nigger with you.'"
The band was forced to find new places to play. Seldin says they played weddings and lots and lots of proms that year. After a while, they were playing so many shows that the same owners who had turned the band down starting calling and told him they wanted to book the band and he could bring the guy with him.
"I said great and then I'd charge them about 60% more for the rate. They'd say what's this? I said, that's for the guy you didn't want me to bring."
Although he had plenty of success as a teenage promoter, everything almost came crashing to a halt on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Seldin had sunk all of his money into Johnny Thunder, his first national act who was in the Top 10 of the charts at the time with "Loop De Loop".
The show was scheduled for Friday, November 22, 1963. By the early afternoon, word was out everywhere that the President had been shot. The phone started ringing non-stop with people cursing Norman out, telling him he had to cancel the show.
Unfortunately, not only did he sink all of his money into the show, but he booked six additional acts. Rescheduling would have been a nightmare - especially on such short notice, so the show went on and about 350 people came out. Seldin says that many of the attendees said things were so bad that they needed an outlet that night.
He acquired his nickname as a teenager as well. When he was about 15 or 16, he began hanging around the racetrack at Monmouth Park. He'd be performing three long sets of music at night and still be at the track at 5 or 6 in the morning watching them with the horses. The jockeys began calling him "Stormin' Norman" and the name not only stuck but was officially registered as a racehorse. Seldin says at one time he had around 8 race horses and did well at the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, but it got too expensive to continue.
These days, Norman is as busy as ever. He plays solo shows, duo shows, trio shows, and shows with dueling pianos. In an area dominated by guitar players, Norman's shows have a bit of their own niche.
"For one of my solo shows the audience can expect anything from Professor Longhair/Fats Domino type of thing to Mississippi Blues and Stride Piano. People get that along with John Prine, Tom Waits and Randy Newman. Usually it's a 3-hour non-stop set. If I'm doing a show and the place is jumping, I don't want to stop!"
"Band shows with me like the 3-piano bands are neat," he says. "That's probably one of the most awesome things to see. There are three 88-note digital pianos across the stage with three guys that are all lead singers. One guy is sequencing drums and bass, so there's a kick to it. The dance floor is out of their mind and then one piano player picks up the guitar and he sounds like B.B. King! We do a mixture of Blind Faith, Jerry Lee Lewis, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder. We even do some Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley. It's like a power rock trio but with pianos.
"With the dueling piano shows what we kind of do is look at each other and say let's do some ragtime. We'll start with that or some blues stride. And we trade off solos until the point where you can't sizzle any more, then we end and head into a vocal. It's an actual duel, but one we only do a couple of times a night for 12-15 minutes... but it gets intense."
"To me, the Shore has become a guitar haven, it's all you see," said Seldin. "So, I think it's refreshing. Dueling pianos is the idea of something other than guitars and drums and that really excites them a lot."
While Seldin is known throughout the area as one of the top piano players, he's quick to point out that for every ten piano players you can name there's a hundred more that are better who you never hear of.
"Watch out for the ones you haven't heard of," Seldin warns fellow musicians. "They're the ones you've got to watch out for. The ones that are always in the limelight you don't worry about, but boy... when that one sneaks up it's an awful awakening."
Seldin is rereleasing his last CD, Asbury Park: Then & Now due to heavy demand driven by the Internet. The CD is a virtual Who's Who of Jersey Shore music including several artists who are listed alongside Seldin as one of the Creators of S.O.A.P. ("The Sound of Asbury Park"). Seldin says being on that plaque is pretty special because "they're recognizing that you had a major part in creating something."
Light of Day's Main Event To Be Broadcast Live at McLoone's Supper Club (ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- If you couldn't get tickets for the fabled "main event" of the 2019 Light of Day Winterfest, you have another chance see the show. For the first time in the 19-year history of the festival, the "main event", the star-studded “Bob’s Birthday Bash” on January 19th (a show that has long sold out), will be broadcast live via fiber optic cable at McLoone's Supper Club in Asbury Park.Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts To Hold Winter Open House On January 27 (BERKELEY HEIGHTS) -- Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) will host a Winter Open House on Sunday, January 27 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The free event is open to the public and will be held at the Performing Arts School (PAS) located at 60 Locust Avenue in Berkeley Heights.Billy Idol and Steve Stevens To Perform At Count Basie Center For The Arts (RED BANK, NJ) -- Billy Idol and Steve Stevens, one of rock’s most iconic and enduring duos, will hit the road this March for their first ever tour performing as a duo: Turned On, Tuned In and Unplugged. The Billy Idol/Steve Stevens tour comes to The Count Basie Center for the Arts on Thursday, April 4th.McDonald's Gospelfest To Celebrate The Life of Aretha Franklin With Return to Prudential Center (NEWARK, NJ) -- The 37th Annual McDonald’s Gospelfest returns to the Prudential Center on Saturday, May 11 for the gospel event of the year. This year's event will honor and celebrate the life and legacy of the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin with an All-Star cast. The 5:00pm to 7:00pm portion of the evening will feature a rising stars competition for all ages and cultures in categories including Soloists, Choirs, Praise Dancers, Singing Groups, Gospel Comedians, Gospel Poets and Gospel Rappers. The gospel concert, beginning at 7:00pm, will feature some of the most renowned gospel artists in music history with the goal of spreading love, peace and joy to all races, nationalities and beliefs.Bickford Theatre Presents Herb Gardner's Groundhog Jam (MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- The great Groundhog Jam has a long history of prying jazz fans out of their warm burrows and into the chill of February weather in order to welcome the advent of spring. The Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum continues a tradition of hosting this event on Monday, February 4 at 7:30pm. Herb Gardner, who plays both trombone and piano, is assembling a stellar group of musicians from the New York, New Jersey, and New England areas including: Fred Vigorito on cornet, Joe Licari on clarinet, James Chirilloon guitar, Mike Weatherly on bass and Robbie Scott on drums. Daughters Abbie and Sarah Gardner will be handling the vocals and guitar.
Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band."He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!Mike Davis and The New Wonders Mike Davis traces his love for the trumpet back to a Disney movie.
He grew up in a musical family, with both his parents playing strings in the Seattle Symphony. But Davis wanted an instrument of his own.
Then, at age 9, he saw “The Aristocats,” the animated film about a bunch of French felines — including a group of jazz-playing alley cats.Ana Gasteyer's "Holiday Tipple" LIVE! at the Grunin Center The Grunin Center stage in Toms River, NJ is set this Saturday, December 15, 2018 with drums, a grand piano, a guitar, an acoustic bass, and various microphones for vocals. A stool and several microphone stands are bedazzled with colorful garlands of shiny red, gold, and green, and wrapped gifts are strewn on stage among the instruments. Projected white snowflakes adorn the walls, and Christmas music plays as patrons enter the theater to put everyone in the mood for tonight’s holiday show — Ana Gastayer’s Holiday Tipple!